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Privacy on the Line: The Politics of Wiretapping and Encryption Hardcover – January 5, 1998

ISBN-13: 978-0262041676 ISBN-10: 0262041677 Edition: 0th

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: The MIT Press (January 5, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0262041677
  • ISBN-13: 978-0262041676
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6.8 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,574,219 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

There was a time when cryptography--the making and breaking of secret codes--was of interest only to spies, diplomats, and the occasional eccentric. Those days are over, and the reason, as Diffie and Landau explain, is that secret codes have become the key to preserving traditional notions of privacy at a time when technology is rapidly altering the nature of human communication.

When the vast majority of conversations happened face to face, keeping them private was a simple matter of stepping away from the listening crowd. But the growing number of conversations that take place over easy-to-intercept phone lines and e-mail channels requires more sophisticated safeguards. Above all, it requires online encryption tools of the highest grade, and this book does a good job of explaining how these tools work, both in principle and in practice. It does a better job, though, of explaining why the tools matter. The intense political battles that have surrounded digital cryptography in recent years are a testament to the profound political implications of privacy in the online era, and Diffie and Landau have delivered an admirably thorough overview of both the struggles and the stakes. If at times their thoroughness bogs them down in dry recitations of detail, their book at least generates more light than heat, and that can hardly be said of most contributions to the cryptography debate so far. --Julian Dibbell --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Comsec, sigint, NSA, NIST, DES, Clipper chip, key escrow?such technobabble related to intelligence-gathering can baffle the uninitiated. This authoritative treatise helps unveil some of the mystery and puts contemporary freedom, privacy and security issues in perspective. After explaining basic concepts of cryptography, the authors cover the history of 20th-century intelligence gathering, then recount the long, discouraging saga of the U.S. government's invasions of its citizens' privacy. In World War II, census data were used illegally to round up Japanese Americans. In the 1950s and '60s, the CIA read private mail, and in the 1970s, it monitored research requests in public libraries. The electronic spying of our security agencies is not even a law-enforcement bargain?wiretapping is costly and produces arguably modest results. Issues of the 1990s include the 1992 Digital Telephone Proposal, the legal vicissitudes of "Pretty Good Privacy," and the government's attempts to require key escrow (storage of keys so that the government can crack coded messages). As in earlier times, we still see competition between the various security bureaucracies. Diffie is a distinguished engineer at Sun Microsystems and the inventor of public-key cryptography (software that encodes a document with one key and deciphers it with another); Landau is a research associate professor in the department of computer science at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Together, they bring formidable expertise to bear on complex topics.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Ben Rothke on October 30, 2000
Format: Hardcover
During the civil war in Beirut some years ago, Life magazine ran a photo essay of people lounging around a hotel pool, ostensibly oblivious to the hostilities around them. In a similar sense, many people are unaware of a skirmish currently being fought on the digital battlefield: the war for protection of personal privacy.
The authors of this book assert that privacy is one of the underpinnings of a democratic society, and that if the democratic society in the United States is to survive, Americans must maintain privacy in communications. In addition, the means of protecting that privacy must be built into all current and future communication systems.
In recent years, the convergence of the Internet, telecommunications, and other technologies has elevated personal privacy to new levels of importance. It is now possible to effortlessly track a person's every movement, from the path of the morning commute to the choice of sandwich at lunch. Every keystroke and e-mail transmission can likewise be monitored.
Authors Whitfield Diffie and Susan Landau assert that in the "old days," when communications largely occurred face to face, privacy was simply a matter of stepping aside from those who butted in. With voice communications traveling over cellular networks, through the Internet, and via other pathways prone to compromise, the best method of securing such communications is with strong encryption.
The authors argue their case effectively and engagingly, and are uniquely qualified to do so, especially in the case of Diffie. He is one of the seminal computer scientists of the last 30 years, and hardly a household doesn't benefit from security technology he helped develop.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 6, 2002
Format: Paperback
For those out of the crypto loop, the lead author, Whitfield Diffie was co-developer of public key encryption technology at Stanford several decades ago and stands as one of the most knowledgeable figures in the field of cryptography. Though the public policy aspects of cryptography are an important part of what this book is about, it is really a book with much broader implications, especially with the passage of the Patriot Act which strips U.S. citizens of any meaningful court oversight in the search and surveillance arenas. Now that the justice department has unleashed the Magic Lantern trojan horse on the public, the warnings found in this book pale by comparison since it was written before 9/11 events. The author delineates the many rationale for why respect for privacy is a good idea and how arguments to the contrary are basically flawed. Those in law enforcement and national security roles cyclically lobby for totalitarian capabilities, get them, become insatiable with MKULTRA type scenarios, get discovered, get their hands slapped and start over again when the headlines subside. Meanwhile taxpayers take a beating in lost jobs, ruined reputations, unwarranted jail time, suicides and the like. Since it is obvious that lawmakers have been delinquent in learning these lessons, what will happen when someone detonates a nuclear device in a large city and the justice department introduces legislation for mandatory implants? How will you be able to turn back after that? Tick, tick, tick...
Read Diffie, think hard about lessons unlearned and what you can do about it. Ask your lawmakers to MAKE NEW MISTAKES.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 12, 1998
Format: Hardcover
This is the most clearly written book on the sources of the problems facing our right to privacy that I have seen yet. Well documented, well written and shows just what the Federal Government is doing to eliminate our ability to have private communication. I suggest that this book should be considered urgent reading. It could be the one that wakes everybody up.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 29, 1998
Format: Hardcover
This is an excellent viewpoint into personal privacy isssues in contemporary society. I recommend it to people interested in understanding the current issues associated with govt legislation of cryptography and personal privacy. The book is written from a viewpoint critical of the US govt position and it serves as an excellent balance to law enforcement writings on government requirements for key escrow systems.
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0 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 20, 1998
Format: Hardcover
A good book answering my questions about encription and if it's safe to send your credit card over the internet, but now all of them.
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